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What We Read Today 29 March 2016

Econintersect: Every day our editors collect the most interesting things they find from around the internet and present a summary "reading list" which will include very brief summaries (and sometimes longer ones) of why each item has gotten our attention. Suggestions from readers for "reading list" items are gratefully reviewed, although sometimes space limits the number included.

This feature is published every day late afternoon New York time. For early morning review of headlines see "The Early Bird" published every day in the early am at GEI News (membership not required for access to "The Early Bird".).


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Topics today include:

  • What Paul Krugman Thinks We Have Learned since 2008

  • The American Dream is More Possible in Other Countries

  • The Economics of Sleep

  • Who should make decisions about public welfare?  The public or businesses?

  • Watch Precious Metals Spreads

  • Apple in Dark about FBI Hack

  • Record Minimum for Winter Arctic Ice

  • First GOP Senator Meets with Merrick Garland

  • How Did $15 Minimum Wage Become Mainstream?

  • Rouseff's Own Party Abandons Her with Impeachment Pending

  • And More

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world


  • Arctic Sea Ice Dwindles to New Record Winter Low (Scientific American)  Every winter, the Arctic Ocean’s sea ice cover reaches a peak and then declines with the onset of spring. That peak, recorded this year on Thursday, was the lowest seen in 37 years of record keeping, federal scientists said yesterday.  Sea ice covered just 5.6 million square miles of the Arctic Ocean on Thursday, about 5,000 square miles less than the previous record set last year, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) and NASA. The 1981-2010 average sea ice extent was 6 million square miles.  The extent of ice the past two winters has been nearly 7% less than the average for 1981-2010.  Scientists think that the decreased ice extent is only partially due directly to global warming.  It has also been influenced by weather patterns, especially over the north Atlantic.  However, it has not been determined if the unusual weather patterns are influenced by climate change so the observed ice coverage could be caused by secondary effects of global warming as well as the average warming of the planet.


  • Tied 4-4 after Scalia's death, high court gives unions a win (Associated Press)   In the clearest sign yet of the impact of Justice Antonin Scalia's death, U.S. labor unions scored a major victory Tuesday with a tie vote in a high-profile Supreme Court case they had once seemed all but certain to lose.  The 4-4 split, in a case that sharply divided the court's liberal union supporters and their conservative opponents, demonstrated how much is riding on President Barack Obama's effort to replace Scalia with a judge who could tilt the balance on the high court for years to come. Senate Republicans say they won't consider any nomination until a new president takes office.

  • Kirk becomes first GOP senator to meet with Garland (Chicago Tribune)  Sen. Mark Kirk became the first Republican senator to meet with Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, complimenting President Barack Obama's pick Tuesday as "one of the most eminent jurists in the country" and criticizing GOP leaders' refusal to hold confirmation hearings or a vote on him.  Kirk, who represents Democratic-leaning Illinois, is perhaps the most endangered Senate  Republican facing re-election in November. And when it comes to the battle over Obama's pick to fill the court vacancy, Kirk has been an outlier.  He's one of just three Senate Republicans to say the Senate Judiciary Committee should hold hearings on Garland. And he's one of two GOP senators — along with Susan Collins, R-Maine — to say the full chamber should vote on the nominee.  See also Sen. Kirk, here's how you can persuade the GOP to consider Merrick Garland (Chicago Tribune).

  • Jack Goldsmith: Blocking Garland Means Danger for Conservatives (Time)  Republicans have every reason to fear that Justice Garland would push Supreme Court jurisprudence in a sharply progressive direction.  The replacement of Scalia by Garland portends a dramatic change in the legal direction of some of the most important and contested issues in American society. In this respect the Garland nomination reveals more clearly than perhaps any episode in American history how deeply “political” Supreme Court jurisprudence is.  Brookings Senior Fellow Benjamin Wittes noted, Republicans should ask themselves whether it will “play well … to block one of America’s finest jurists in order to hold the seat open for Donald Trump to fill”. Even with the Trump wild card—who knows whom a President Trump would nominate?—Republicans think it will play better than any alternative in the short term. But they are overlooking longer-term dangers.  And, of course, the next president could be Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, arriving with a loss to the Senate for the Republicans.  In that case as well, Merrick Gartland could represent a pillar of centrist jurisprudence compared to the eventual replacement justice. 

  • How a $15 Minimum Wage Went From Fringe to Mainstream (Bloomberg)  The union-backed campaign for $15 just scored a huge win in California and may get another in New York.   By 2020 there will be a $15 minimum wage in effect for fast-food workers in New York City, for employees of large companies in Seattle, and for all workers in Los Angeles. On March 28, California Governor Jerry Brown announced a deal to make the $15 wage standard throughout the state by 2022. Last year, Democrats in Congress proposed making it the national starting wage, replacing the $7.25 federal minimum that prevails today.  None of that would have been possible without the union-conceived Fight for $15, a four-year-old effort that’s been organized labor’s most effective political campaign in recent memory.


  • Brazil's PMDB party quits ruling coalition (BBC News)   The PMDB, the largest party in Brazil's ruling coalition, has voted for an "immediate exit" from President Dilma Rousseff's government.  The move could hasten impeachment proceedings against President Rousseff, correspondents say.  Opposition lawmakers want to remove Ms Rousseff over claims she manipulated accounts to hide a growing deficit.  Following Tuesday's vote, the embattled president cancelled a trip to attend a summit in Washington this week.

What Have We Learned Since 2008? (Paul Krugman, CCNY)  Good data collection.  Prof. Krugman says data shows support for Keynesian theory.  That may well be, but Econintersect would like to see some of the charts showing straight line regression equations, including correlations (R-squared), both with and without Greece.  Examples:

Other Scientific, Health, Political, Economics and Business Items of Note - plus Miscellanea

  • Genes and the American Dream (Scientific American)  The American Dream is that all citizens will have an equal opportunity "to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable…regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.”  But the social characteristic should be called the 'non-American dream' - it

"is more of a reality for other countries than it is for America: genetic influences on IQ were uniform across levels of SES in Western Europe and Australia, but, in the United States, were much higher for the rich than for the poor."

The whole point of government regulation is to intervene in the conflict of interest that companies and individuals have between their own financial benefit and the public interest.

Most people seem to get that, but not here. We’ve documented a long process of UK government prioritising business interests in policy-making and creating new processes that give businesses more say in what gets regulated and how.

The latest capitulation to business is over animal welfare standards. From next month the poultry industry itself will write the guidance on what counts as compliance with animal welfare regulations. For example, poultry farmers will typically trim the beaks of their chickens to prevent them injuring one another – current guidance advises that this should be limited to beak blunting performed by trained professionals to very high standards. The industry will now decide on this guidance itself.  As this is the current guidance, as commentators have rightly pointed out, when it comes to self-regulation of standards the only way is down.

  • Precious Metals: Inter-Commodity Spreads May Yield Clues (Seeking Alpha)  All precious metals are up for the first quarter, but  watching gold could be a mistake:  Silver and platimum have putperformed the yellow metal.  The author points out that all three precious metals are approaching resistance levels - surpassing them would be bullish.

  • Apple remains in dark how FBI hacked iPhone without its help (Associated Press)   The FBI's announcement that it mysteriously hacked into an iPhone is a public setback for Apple Inc., as consumers suddenly discover they can't keep their most personal information safe. Meanwhile, Apple remains in the dark about how to restore the security of its flagship product.  The government said it was able to break into an iPhone used by a gunman in a mass shooting in California, but it didn't say how. That puzzled Apple software engineers — and outside experts — about how the FBI broke the digital locks on the phone without Apple's help. It also complicated Apple's job repairing flaws that jeopardize its software.

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